Sunday, January 30, 2011

Heat Wave

I've never really been one to check the weather regularly. I figured that there was nothing I could really do about it, even if it was really hot while I was in Carolina, I still had to go to class and go ride. Same with the rain in Portland. I've developed a sort of morbid fascination with the temperatures since I've moved to North Dakota. I guess there's some little part of me that can't believe it's STILL that cold.

Right now, according to the little application on my toolbar, it's -6 degrees Fahrenheit outside. disagrees and tells me that it's -4 with a "real feel" of -27. The high for today is supposed to -1. The low tonight, -12. Seriously?

I've never minded the cold, which is probably why I'm still capable of functioning right now. But "cold" means something entirely different depending on where you're from. I don't mind it hanging around the 20-40 range for a few months out of the year, and 60-70 is about my perfect temperature range. I can't tolerate high heat and humidity almost at all, and end up guzzling literally gallons of water a day trying to cope with it. What I previously though of as "extreme" cold was only uncomfortable to me, and might result in not being able to feel my toes or fingers for a few hours after I came inside, but wasn't much more than an inconvenience.

But that was before I moved to North Dakota.

I still think I could tolerate these temperatures if they were intermittent, or if they only lasted for a few weeks, or a month or two. But the sheer length of the winter here is ridiculous. I've been starting to think that there is no end in sight. And I still haven't figured out a way to keep my fingers at a functional temperature while riding in 10 below weather.

But last week we saw a glimmer of hope! A three day heat wave hit! For three days, the high hovered between 33 and 36 degrees ABOVE zero! I couldn't believe how good it felt. Even if I'd forgotten to turn the heater in my car up to high the night before so it would warm up before I had to drive, it was almost a pleasant temperature when I got in. I wasn't trying to wrap my scarf around my entire face to keep the icy wind off of it, in fact, I left my scarf off entirely one day.

Seizing the opportunity to be able to work for longer before my body revolted against temperatures that no human should have to endure, I decided to introduce Indigo to side reins.

We've been working a lot on lunging and transitions recently, and I've been thinking that she's about ready for the next step. I attached the side reins to my saddle and put her bridle on over her halter.

I feel I should explain that. Her mouth is one of the softest and most sensitive that I've had the pleasure of working with. I do want her to get used to the pressure of the side reins and to learn to step into the contact, but I don't want to desensitize her by muddied cues through the lunge line. I've been working on getting her trained to voice commands on the lunge line, so I don't need the extra power of the bit. On top of that, she certainly doesn't need the added severity and leverage action that comes from running the line over the poll, and, the loose-ring bit I use will pull through her mouth if I only attach the line to the inside ring. So I leave her halter on and attach the line to the side rings of that, instead of to the bridle.

She warmed up well, responding easily to voice commands like normal, so I went ahead and attached the outside side rein, adjusted very loose and sent her back out on the line. She trotted around, and didn't really react. After a few transitions, I brought her back to the middle, reversed directions, and clipped on the other rein. Both side reins were loose enough that they weren't restricting her movement at all, simply getting her used to their presence. Sending her back out, her only real reaction to them was not particularly appreciating them swinging under her neck while she was trotting, but no major reactions.

After a few circuits, I brought her in and removed the side reins. I didn't want to over-work her on the day I introduced them since I didn't want to form a negative association. We'll work on slowly shortening them so that they're actually effective as intended over the next several weeks. I ended the session with a short ride, focusing on stabilization and responding to my seat.

Unfortunately, the nice weather was short lived. The third day the warm weather was accompanied by 50 mph winds, which made driving home on the icy roads an interesting experience. The next day, we were back down to the single digits.

Oh well, it was nice while it lasted, and I'll just keep looking forward to spring. It should only be a few more months away.

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